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(UK) Basingstoke: New $14M autism school opens

Aug 17, 2021, Basingstoke Gazette: Inside the new £10.1m [$14M U.S.] Austen Academy for children with autism

Southern England A BRAND new £10.1M school built especially for young people with autistic spectrum disorder is now open in Basingstoke…. Following a bidding process, the new school is being run by the multi-academies trust and charity, Catch 22, which also operates Ashwood and Coppice Spring schools in Basingstoke. As an academy, the school is directly funded by the Department for Education, with places at the school assessed and commissioned by Hampshire County Council. Catch 22 has negotiated a phased introduction to the school for students. From April 2021, the school accommodated 20 young people. From September, this will increase to 60, and then increase by 24 students each September to a maximum capacity of 128. So far, the group has been made up of years 5 - 8, with Year 4 and Year 9 aged students being added to the cohort in September, and expanded each year based on need until it covers ages 5-16. The school is intended only for students working at least at their age-related expectations, who have been diagnosed with autism. The Gazette took a tour of the state-of-the art new facilities, and spoke with Catch 22 executive principal for the South West, Dave Moran, who has been working with children with special education needs in Hampshire since 2003. “There is no other ASD specialist school in Hampshire. It’s the first of its kind,” he said…. “The children that have come here have thrived in the first term. All of their attendance improved massively. Some of them had no school for over a year, and they were all attending full time within three weeks.” Catch 22 is continuing to recruit “highly skilled” teachers in a variety of specialisms, with more staff per head than in other schools. “For lots of the students, one of the biggest barriers for them is their anxiety,” said David…. Each classroom has a break-out room to give children the opportunity to take themselves out of any stressful situation, as well as its own outdoor space and non-gendered, individual toilets. Despite it not being included in the initial funding, David said the charity ad also found the funds to include sensory rooms for wellbeing, and the school also has life-skills rooms to prepare the young people for life outside of The Austen Academy….


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